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NJC Pay Offer 2013 : Responding to the NJC Employers Offer

NORTH WEST POSITION IS TO REJECT NATIONAL PAY OFFER

Dear Colleague

As reported on the UNISON website here and in other media the NJC Employers have now put forward two “options” for an NJC pay offer this year to the Trade Union side.

This circular sets out the position of the North West Service Group to the offer – which is to firmly REJECT.

Full details of the offer are going out to branches in a circular from the UNISON Centre. But in short, and with the North West responses, they are;

Option A

  • 1% pay increase on all spinal column points;

But with the following strings …..

  • Remove the NJC Car Allowance Scheme from the Green Book and replace it with the HMRC Scheme.

This would not apply in councils that already pay less than HMRC rates – ie it’s national bargaining, but not for all.

  • Change the ACAS arbitration clause in the Green Book so that any referral has to be made by both parties rather than just one.

The Employers want to remove the ability of the Trade Unions to refer disputes to ACAS. Well what a surprise!

And with a couple of meaningless carrots …..

  • Minimum paid annual leave would increase from 21 days to 22 on entry.

Many councils already start above 21 days – and this is cold comfort for those members who have seen ‘additional unpaid leave’ imposed on them as part of cuts packages. And with local authority workforces shrinking like cellophane next to an open fire just how many new starters are there going to be who would benefit anyway?

  • The “return to service” continuous service clause to be extended from 5 years to 10 years.

This is the other red herring. This clause applies to outsourced workers such that if they are then brought back in house within 5 years it is treated as unbroken service for calculating things like annual leave, sickness and maternity qualification.

The NJC Employers obviously live in a parallel universe. Whilst we may secure the odd insourcing success here and there these small victories pale against the constant fight to avoid more and more outsourcing. Are we really meant to believe that wholesale insourcing is a likelihood? We should not see this ‘concession’ for anything other than the empty box it is.

There is also a sting, or two, in the tail of Option A that may be overlooked at first glance. We do so at our peril.

Changes to the Green Book clauses would be introduced at “an agreed date”. Most likely this would be ‘deferred’ to 2014 – or put another way, changes from 2013 will be kicking in just as we are negotiating around 2014 pay.

Then there is this bland looking statement …..

  • Draw up a list of Terms & Conditions to be discussed throughout the year.

Firstly, that should be part of the core business of a functioning NJC anyway. But it should not be explicitly part of a pay settlement. Secondly, and where the alarm bells should be clanging, it’s hardly cracking the Da Vinci Code to realise that for the Employers this means coming back, again, for the NJC Occupational Sickness Scheme.

Hardly a subtle attempt to pre-constrain the 2014 pay round. And tantamount to the Employers wanting us to sign away the Sickness Scheme quietly and in advance.

On a purely practical level this is the stuff of nonsense. Do we have to agree what the ‘list’ contains before the pay rise (and the strings and mouldy carrots) are implemented? Which would mean further and separate discussions and consultations. Or are we meant to sign up to the principle of a ‘list’ for its contents to be determined later? I think we can guess what the NJC Employers have in mind and this is typical of their deliberate confusion, contempt and intransigence.

Option B

  • 1% pay increase on spinal column points 4 to 10.
  • 0.6% pay increase on spinal column points 11 and above.

This is the ‘spite’ and ‘punishment’ option if members aren’t bullied into accepting Option A. Which translated means; if you don’t take the 1% with its strings and roundabouts we will split the pay offer, seek to divide the workforce and seek to divide the members from the union. Of course, and again from their Twilight Zone, the NJC Employers seem not to have noticed that partly through the Living Wage campaign and partly through (yes) local bargaining a number of authorities now have relatively few employees on the most bottom spinal column points.

But here’s the really cynical bit. In October this year the National Minimum Wage uprating will almost certainly mean that the NMW overtakes the bottom of the NJC pay spine. The NJC Employers know that has to rise anyway, so if anybody doubted that the situation with NJC pay is now an absolute disgrace then here is the undeniable proof.

Option B will see a total pay bill cost that is less than 1%. As would Option A once the savings from ripping out the last vestiges of the NJC Car Scheme are factored in.

So to pause and consider this for just a moment. After a 3 year total pay freeze we had, from this altruistic central government, the sparkling promise of a 1% capped pay rise in 2013/14 and 2014/15. Crumbs in a biscuit factory.

Yet from the NJC Employers – who know damn well just how the living standards of its workforce have plummeted – we don’t even get offered that. They are swept away. Instead we get a choice between two 10 pence pick n mix bags which will actually cost us a quid in the real world sweet shop.

The NJC Employers have now shown their contempt for collective bargaining but more pointedly for their own workforce. The offer (both options) is a spit in the eye to local government workers. Instead of standing up to Government’s plunder of local authority coffers the NJC Employers have, once again, turned on their own employees to soak up the leaks. Yes, they may do so “with regret” and “with understanding” but platitudes don’t pay the bills and don’t feed the kids.

This offer, on top of the pay freeze, on top of previous years of below inflation settlements, will simply push more and more low to middle-earning local government workers into further debt, into fuel poverty, into reliance on in-work benefits and tax credits. So what the CLG and the Treasury, through the NJC Employers, take away – the DWP partly puts back (but with increasing strings). Those many thousands of members further up the pay spine who don’t qualify for benefits and tax credits will see another tight constriction around their ‘squeezed middles’. Such is the madhouse of government fiscal austerity when applied to pay and social policy.

And in the meantime thousands and thousands and thousands of local government jobs are going and will continue to go. Not just for another one or two years, but for another six, seven, eight years. Unless something changes.

The offer is an insult.

The NJC Employers are relying on a sense that local government workers are now so brow-beaten, so demoralised, so stupefied that they will shuffle silently and compliantly to take more and more and more cuts to their earnings and living standards, as well as to their jobs and the services they provide with pride and care. It is therefore up to us to provide some hope and confidence and strength to give voice that “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”.

Because if we don’t believe that we can start to make a difference there will be no difference, there will be no change. We cannot rely on this government; we cannot rely on any government. We can only rely on ourselves and – as local authority services are pared back, wither or disappear altogether – on gaining support from those we actually work for; our service users and our communities. Because these things are all interlinked not trade-offs.

A motion unanimously agreed by the North West Local Government Service Group has been referred to the UNISON NJC Committee and is on the agenda for their meeting on 27 February.

This called for UNISON to reject an unacceptable pay offer and to seriously campaign for a decent pay offer fully using UNISON resources with a view to balloting members if there is no acceptable offer in the next few months.

Our North West NJC representatives at that meeting will be arguing strongly and passionately for the NJC Committee to adopt the motion. Not because it is the right thing to say, or the ‘politic’ thing to say, but because it is the right thing to do.

It is not mere rhetoric and neither is it a simplistic ‘call to arms’. It is a call to activism. For all Regions and local government branches to – at the very least – engage directly with all members, not just Branch Committees, AGM’s and stewards.

To put the case forward with members and have a grown up conversation and debate. To listen and to talk. To show understanding and to show leadership.

To take the issue of pay and living standards out of the “Too Hard To Do Box” and show that pay is not being traded to save jobs and services. Pay value is still falling; living standards are still plummeting; as pension values are linked to pay so members retiring now and in the future will have pensions forever eroded for the rest of our lives; jobs are still going in their thousands; services are still going. They are not separate entities.

At its core, trade unionism is about facing up to the hard things and doing the hard things in the hard times.

Our Branch Executive moved the motion to our Regional Local Government Branches.

Pay will be one of the main items at our Branch AGM at 12.30 this Thursday 28th February in the Friends Meeting House.

In addition to pay and other motions we also have Owen Jones as guest speaker.

If all stewards and contacts attended and brought one member from their workplace we would have a packed meeting so please make every effort to attend.

Pat McDonagh

Branch Secretary
Manchester UNISON

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